by Wm. CONKLIN, 1996

A Synopsis prepared by We The People Foundation for Constitutional Education

Conklin started his own church in the late 1970s to take advantage of tax laws. He also began to speak out against income tax. The IRS went after him. A series of court battles followed over the next several years. He doesn't go into much detail about the particulars. He had some victories on certain points, but says the IRS finally prevailed and had its way. He points out that the 10th Circuit Court ignored Supreme Court decisions.

Conklin regards the cases as valuable learning experiences that taught him much about the way the IRS and judiciary operate. Several of his cases were instigated deliberately in order to pursue certain specific points. He became convinced that the 5th amendment approach is the one to use in resisting the income tax. He repeatedly points out Orwellian definitions and Alice in Wonderland logic used by the IRS in deceptive doublespeak (e.g., voluntary means compelled, shall means may, etc.) to circumvent the 5th amendment.

He offered a $50,000 reward to anyone who can tell him (1) how he can file a tax return without waiving his 5th amendment right not to be a witness against himself, and (2) what law makes him liable to pay income taxes. Some famous lawyers have tried and given up.

In the late 1980's, Conklin hit upon the idea of filing an unsigned return and also giving the IRS power of attorney to sign it for him if they could do so without compromising his fifth amendment rights. His goal was to force the 5th amendment issue, which was especially relevant to him, since he had been officially labeled years before by the IRS as an "illegal tax protestor," and, therefore, he could expect his returns to be closely scrutinized by the CID for information that could be used against him. He got opinion letters from several tax attorneys that he could not file a tax return without waiving his 5th amendment protection, and he enclosed the letters along with the unsigned tax return and the power of attorney. The IRS ignored it in 1987, but hit him with a $500 frivolous return penalty in 1988, the second year he did it. This went to federal district court and posed a real dilemma for the judge. After 5 years, the judge ruled "against" Conklin. The 10th circuit upheld. Conklin claims he won an important point when the judge ruled that tax returns are not compelled testimony; Conklin interprets this to mean they're voluntary. The decision was unpublished. Conklin filed a Petition for a Writ of Certiorari with the Supreme Court (which also gives a good summary of the case, p.35). [The petition was declined by the Supreme Court.]

From all this experience, Conklin recommends an overall strategy that depends on hundreds of thousands of people filing their returns in such a way as to clog the system and strangle it. At the individual level, the tactic is to get into an offensive position, not a defensive one, especially if you're not judgment-proof. (1) consult with tax attorneys and ask them how you can file a tax return without waiving the 5th amendment protection of your rights; when they say you can't, have them put it in writing. (2) make sure your with-holding or self-employment payments will exceed your tax; (3) at end of year, send IRS a letter stating that you're aware that filing a return requires you to waive your rights, which you no longer wish to do, and that you've consulted with several tax attorneys (enclose copies of their letters). (4) ask for an extension of time to file until they can come up with a way for you to file w/o waiving your rights. (5) point out you believe that unless and until a return is filed making you liable for a tax, you understand that that the money paid in is just sitting in a "pending" account somewhere, unused (as if in escrow). (6) state that you wish your letter to serve as an informal Claim for Refund; unless the IRS can inform you of a way to file without waiving your 5th amendment right, you can (7) sue them for your refund [no explanation as to how you figure the refund]. This puts you in the driver's seat, on the offensive. They'll have to explain to a jury why they haven't been able to respond to your request and your claim for refund. The IRS may scurry around and file a return for you under 6020(b), and apply the withheld moneys to it. But they can't do this for thousands of people. You could do this each year; probably easier than a regular return.

A lesser step, for those with less confidence, is the "jurat" method. After making sure plenty has been withheld, have CPA prepare your return, then file it without signing it. Attach a letter that you can't sign it under penalty of perjury because you don't understand the document or its contents, and that if you did understand it, you'd have prepared it yourself; state that you told the truth about income to your CPA, who has signed it as the preparer. The IRS will either fine you $500 or decline to send your refund. Either way, you're positioned to sue for a refund. They'll most likely ignore your request and proceed under 6020(b).

Even if people don't file a Claim for Refund, the IRS would still have to issue a Notice of Deficiency to all who haven't self-assessed. Then each person could file a Tax Court petition. Even if all agree to the amount assessed under 6020(b), the work load for the IRS would be staggering and overwhelming.


When asked about how his method has worked for others, Conklin on 6/14/99 paused and then said the courts don't respect the 5th amendment method. It's a judicial conspiracy to protect the income tax. District and circuit courts ignore Supreme Court decisions, and get away with it. So we really have laws as interpreted by the 12 circuit courts.

The 5th amendment aspect certainly comes into play if one has already been walking on dubious ground with the income tax rules and the information on a return could reasonably be expected to be used by the IRS in civil or criminal prosecution. Conklin had already been classified as an "illegal tax protestor" by the IRS, so the 5th amendment was especially relevant to him, but even then he didn't get far with the court on these grounds. And that's probably how and why he came to focus on it and emphasize it in his method. The 5th amendment issue was the part of the elephant he bumped into first.

Others have bumped into other parts and focused primarily on them.

The broader, more general question arises as to whether the government can ask you for information on any other forms without requiring you to waive your rights.